Prepping for Your First Prenatal Visit? Ask Your Doc These Questions

 Grace Gallagher Profile Photo
By Grace Gallagher | Updated on Jan 4, 2024
Image for article Prepping for Your First Prenatal Visit? Ask Your Doc These Questions

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Early pregnancy often feels very abstract—all you have to show for it are two pink lines on a stick. Once you call your doctor’s office to tell them you’re pregnant (the receptionist is probably the first person you’ll tell besides your partner), they probably won’t have you come in until you’re somewhere between seven and ten weeks along. This is to ensure your appointment is far enough along to hear a heartbeat, but it also means you’ll have a lot of time to prep for that exciting and nerve-wracking first prenatal appointment, where it all starts to feel a little more real.

So how do you prepare for your first prenatal appointment? There’s not a ton you need to do, but there are a few things that will help ensure it goes as smoothly as possible. First, think about when your last period started—your pregnancy begins on the first day of your last period (so for the first two-ish weeks of your official pregnancy, you actually aren’t pregnant—weird).  

You’ll also want to inventory any medications or supplements you take and think about anything from your medical history that may not be clearly outlined in your chart. For example, maybe your mom gave birth prematurely, you have irregular periods, or you’ve had a previous chemical pregnancy. But most of all, you’ll want to prep some questions to ask at your first prenatal visit. While your mind is spinning with excitement and your growing to-do list, we’re here to help you check off that last box. 

You don’t need to ask all of these questions at your first appointment—you can pick and choose which are most relevant to you and decide what you need to know now versus what can wait for your next appointment. But it’s good to look over all of them, so you can be prepared to get answers, especially for things that are non-negotiables for you. For example, if you’re hoping for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and your doctor or hospital is hesitant to do them, it’s probably time to look for a new provider. And the earlier you can do that, the better.

Read on for a comprehensive look at the questions you may want to consider asking at your first prenatal appointment, whether it’s your first pregnancy or your fifth.

Questions About Your Body and Your Health

How should I think about my exercise routine during my pregnancy? 

If your doctor so far has been Google, you will know that there are conflicting takes about basically every type of exercise and pregnancy. (No hot yoga during pregnancy! But do all the exercise you normally do!). So, it’s helpful to get a medical professional’s insight on how much you should be exercising and how your routine should or shouldn’t change. 

What should I know about sex during pregnancy?

Your doctor’s advice may change by trimester, but it’s good to start having the conversation early. They’ll probably tell you anything goes (as long as you’re comfortable), but in cases where there’s a history of certain conditions like placental issues or pre-term labor, your doctor may want you to exercise caution or abstain (sorry!).

Based on my medical history, does it appear that I’m at risk for any complications?

It’s better to have all the information you need upfront, right? For example, certain things like having frequent migraines, diabetes, or polycystic ovary syndrome may put you at an increased risk of preeclampsia1 . Your doctor will be able to give you the broad strokes during this first visit of what you should and—even more importantly—shouldn’t worry about based on your history. 

How long can I travel? And can I go on an international trip?

I had to reschedule a trip to Mexico when I was pregnant with my son because my doctor felt it was planned for a time that was too late in my pregnancy. I’m very glad I asked at that first appointment and had plenty of time to make changes.

What symptoms are not considered normal and warrant an immediate call to your office?

Many women (myself included) will have the urge to call their doctor over every little cramp and twinge. While you should feel empowered to ask your doctor anything and everything, there are some pregnancy symptoms they will definitely want you to contact them about, like bleeding or pain. They can also give you guidelines on the things you might experience that could cause you concern, especially if this is your first, but that are perfectly normal during pregnancy. 

What medicine can I take?

You may be surprised by which medications are pregnancy-safe and which are not. You can (and probably should) Google before you take any medication, but the internet can be a confusing place, so it’s good to have a doctor’s sign-off, especially on any regular meds you take.

What foods do I really need to avoid? What is okay in moderation?

If you’re like me, you’ll have lots of questions like, “I know sushi is generally a ‘no,’ but what if it’s from a high-quality restaurant? And do I really need to give up Brie?” Your doctor will be able to give you guidelines on the foods that could put you and your baby at risk of listeria or toxoplasmosis (aka definitely don’t eat), and the ones that are on the avoid list, but that, if they do make you sick, will be no worse for you than it would be if you weren’t pregnant. 

What beauty products should I steer clear of? 

Sorry, but your retinol will probably have to take a backseat. Your doctor will explain any skincare ingredients to avoid and sneaky places they may be hiding.

Can I clean a litter box? Garden? Dye my hair?

There are a variety of activities that everyone talks about avoiding during pregnancy. Take a look at your normal habits and ask your doctor about anything that you’re concerned about. They can give you guidelines on what you do and don’t need to change. 

What is your stance on the occasional drink?

If you survey your parent friends, you’ll probably find that some completely avoided alcohol for all 40 weeks, while others had an occasional beer or glass of wine later in pregnancy. (French women, yada yada). Depending on how by the book your doctor is, they may give you the ACOG answer2  (there is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy) or something a little more nuanced about how it’s impossible to study alcohol and pregnancy, so they don’t know for sure. Either way, it’s a good idea to get their opinion before you make the decision that’s right for you.

What are weight gain expectations for this pregnancy? Does it change if I didn’t shed all the weight from the first pregnancy?

Your doctor will be able to address all your questions about weight and pregnancy, including any complications associated with gaining too little or too much. The first appointment is a good time to set expectations for future conversations about weight, whether it’s not wanting to know the number on the scale (something I’m really glad I asked for) or opting out of weight checks altogether.

What can I do for constipation and hemorrhoids?

Just trust me, you’re going to want to know.

Questions About Your Doctor & Delivery

What do you recommend I do to prepare for birth?

Sure, this is your first appointment, but it’s never too early to start getting ready for the big day. Your doctor may recommend specific books, exercises, Instagram accounts they like, or even a doula or birth class. It’s a good idea to start figuring out your options early so that you have plenty of time to do the birth-prep exercises or start interviewing doulas. 

What is the best way for me to contact you with non-urgent questions?

You’re going to have a lot of questions, and not all of them need to be answered right away. Does your doctor like to be messaged through the patient portal? Would they prefer you leave a message with the receptionist? How long should you expect to wait to get an answer? And what should you do for urgent questions?

Does your doctor have any travel planned?

Now’s the time to find out if your doctor has an African safari planned around your due date. If they do have vacation or extended time off on the calendar during your pregnancy, it’s important to know who you’ll see instead and what the practice’s plans are for coverage.

Who will deliver my baby if you are not on call?

So much of having a good birth experience is feeling comfortable with your team. For that reason, it can be nice to get to know the other doctors in the practice who could potentially deliver your baby or at least familiarize yourself with who it could be.

How much past 40 weeks will you allow me to go?

Doctors have many different stances on how long past 40 weeks they’ll allow patients to go, so this question is important to ask. Some research shows3  that inducing after 41 weeks lowers the risk of stillbirth and other complications, like meconium aspiration (when babies breathe in their waste). Some will insist on inducing earlier than 41 weeks, and some may let you go up to 42 weeks. It’s good to know their policy regardless, but if you have a specific preference, you will want to make sure your doctor’s policies are in alignment.

What is your policy on _______?

Pick and choose the questions on policies that are meaningful for you here. Some doctors, for example, are not trained on instrument-assisted deliveries, so in the event that you would need one (if you fatigue from pushing or the baby is in distress), you’d instead have an emergency C-section. (I did not think to ask this question myself, but I will if I have future pregnancies, as my son was born assisted by vacuum when his heart rate began to drop). Some situations to consider asking about: 

  • Inductions

  • Scheduled c-sections

  • Epidurals

  • Pain management

  • Episiotomies

  • Intermittent vs continuous monitoring

  • Instrument-assisted deliveries (forceps or vacuum)

  • VBACs (This will only be relevant to you if you’ve previously had one or more caesareans and are hoping for a vaginal delivery)

What is the cadence of my appointments?

Your ob-gyn practice may set up all your appointments, or at least all of them through 20 weeks, at that very first prenatal appointment. Generally, you’ll go monthly up until about 28 weeks, then every other week until 36 weeks when you begin weekly appointments. But this is a good time to let the office know if a certain day or time doesn’t work for you and how they handle scheduling. 

Pregnant woman holding her stomach on a bed with a plant in the background

Want evidence-based health & wellness advice for fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum delivered to your inbox?

Your privacy is important to us. By subscribing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.

Expectful uses only high-quality sources, including academic research institutions, medical associations, and subject matter experts.

  1. National Institutes of Health"Who is at risk of preeclampsia?"https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/preeclampsia/conditioninfo/risk#:~:text=Preeclampsia%20is%20also%20more%20common,diabetes%2C%20and%20sickle%20cell%20disease..

  2. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists"Alcohol and Pregnancy"https://www.acog.org/womens-health/infographics/alcohol-and-pregnancy.

  3. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care"Pregnancy and birth: When does labor need to be induced?"Sep 24, 2008https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279570/#:~:text=In%20other%20words%3A%20The%20research,aspiration%20(breathing%20in%20meconium)..


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Updated on Jan 4, 2024

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Prepping for Your First Prenatal Visit? Ask Your Doc These Questions

 Grace Gallagher Profile Photo
By Grace Gallagher | Updated on Jan 4, 2024
Image for article Prepping for Your First Prenatal Visit? Ask Your Doc These Questions

Early pregnancy often feels very abstract—all you have to show for it are two pink lines on a stick. Once you call your doctor’s office to tell them you’re pregnant (the receptionist is probably the first person you’ll tell besides your partner), they probably won’t have you come in until you’re somewhere between seven and ten weeks along. This is to ensure your appointment is far enough along to hear a heartbeat, but it also means you’ll have a lot of time to prep for that exciting and nerve-wracking first prenatal appointment, where it all starts to feel a little more real.

So how do you prepare for your first prenatal appointment? There’s not a ton you need to do, but there are a few things that will help ensure it goes as smoothly as possible. First, think about when your last period started—your pregnancy begins on the first day of your last period (so for the first two-ish weeks of your official pregnancy, you actually aren’t pregnant—weird).  

You’ll also want to inventory any medications or supplements you take and think about anything from your medical history that may not be clearly outlined in your chart. For example, maybe your mom gave birth prematurely, you have irregular periods, or you’ve had a previous chemical pregnancy. But most of all, you’ll want to prep some questions to ask at your first prenatal visit. While your mind is spinning with excitement and your growing to-do list, we’re here to help you check off that last box. 

You don’t need to ask all of these questions at your first appointment—you can pick and choose which are most relevant to you and decide what you need to know now versus what can wait for your next appointment. But it’s good to look over all of them, so you can be prepared to get answers, especially for things that are non-negotiables for you. For example, if you’re hoping for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and your doctor or hospital is hesitant to do them, it’s probably time to look for a new provider. And the earlier you can do that, the better.

Read on for a comprehensive look at the questions you may want to consider asking at your first prenatal appointment, whether it’s your first pregnancy or your fifth.

Questions About Your Body and Your Health

How should I think about my exercise routine during my pregnancy? 

If your doctor so far has been Google, you will know that there are conflicting takes about basically every type of exercise and pregnancy. (No hot yoga during pregnancy! But do all the exercise you normally do!). So, it’s helpful to get a medical professional’s insight on how much you should be exercising and how your routine should or shouldn’t change. 

What should I know about sex during pregnancy?

Your doctor’s advice may change by trimester, but it’s good to start having the conversation early. They’ll probably tell you anything goes (as long as you’re comfortable), but in cases where there’s a history of certain conditions like placental issues or pre-term labor, your doctor may want you to exercise caution or abstain (sorry!).

Based on my medical history, does it appear that I’m at risk for any complications?

It’s better to have all the information you need upfront, right? For example, certain things like having frequent migraines, diabetes, or polycystic ovary syndrome may put you at an increased risk of preeclampsia1 . Your doctor will be able to give you the broad strokes during this first visit of what you should and—even more importantly—shouldn’t worry about based on your history. 

How long can I travel? And can I go on an international trip?

I had to reschedule a trip to Mexico when I was pregnant with my son because my doctor felt it was planned for a time that was too late in my pregnancy. I’m very glad I asked at that first appointment and had plenty of time to make changes.

What symptoms are not considered normal and warrant an immediate call to your office?

Many women (myself included) will have the urge to call their doctor over every little cramp and twinge. While you should feel empowered to ask your doctor anything and everything, there are some pregnancy symptoms they will definitely want you to contact them about, like bleeding or pain. They can also give you guidelines on the things you might experience that could cause you concern, especially if this is your first, but that are perfectly normal during pregnancy. 

What medicine can I take?

You may be surprised by which medications are pregnancy-safe and which are not. You can (and probably should) Google before you take any medication, but the internet can be a confusing place, so it’s good to have a doctor’s sign-off, especially on any regular meds you take.

What foods do I really need to avoid? What is okay in moderation?

If you’re like me, you’ll have lots of questions like, “I know sushi is generally a ‘no,’ but what if it’s from a high-quality restaurant? And do I really need to give up Brie?” Your doctor will be able to give you guidelines on the foods that could put you and your baby at risk of listeria or toxoplasmosis (aka definitely don’t eat), and the ones that are on the avoid list, but that, if they do make you sick, will be no worse for you than it would be if you weren’t pregnant. 

What beauty products should I steer clear of? 

Sorry, but your retinol will probably have to take a backseat. Your doctor will explain any skincare ingredients to avoid and sneaky places they may be hiding.

Can I clean a litter box? Garden? Dye my hair?

There are a variety of activities that everyone talks about avoiding during pregnancy. Take a look at your normal habits and ask your doctor about anything that you’re concerned about. They can give you guidelines on what you do and don’t need to change. 

What is your stance on the occasional drink?

If you survey your parent friends, you’ll probably find that some completely avoided alcohol for all 40 weeks, while others had an occasional beer or glass of wine later in pregnancy. (French women, yada yada). Depending on how by the book your doctor is, they may give you the ACOG answer2  (there is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy) or something a little more nuanced about how it’s impossible to study alcohol and pregnancy, so they don’t know for sure. Either way, it’s a good idea to get their opinion before you make the decision that’s right for you.

What are weight gain expectations for this pregnancy? Does it change if I didn’t shed all the weight from the first pregnancy?

Your doctor will be able to address all your questions about weight and pregnancy, including any complications associated with gaining too little or too much. The first appointment is a good time to set expectations for future conversations about weight, whether it’s not wanting to know the number on the scale (something I’m really glad I asked for) or opting out of weight checks altogether.

What can I do for constipation and hemorrhoids?

Just trust me, you’re going to want to know.

Questions About Your Doctor & Delivery

What do you recommend I do to prepare for birth?

Sure, this is your first appointment, but it’s never too early to start getting ready for the big day. Your doctor may recommend specific books, exercises, Instagram accounts they like, or even a doula or birth class. It’s a good idea to start figuring out your options early so that you have plenty of time to do the birth-prep exercises or start interviewing doulas. 

What is the best way for me to contact you with non-urgent questions?

You’re going to have a lot of questions, and not all of them need to be answered right away. Does your doctor like to be messaged through the patient portal? Would they prefer you leave a message with the receptionist? How long should you expect to wait to get an answer? And what should you do for urgent questions?

Does your doctor have any travel planned?

Now’s the time to find out if your doctor has an African safari planned around your due date. If they do have vacation or extended time off on the calendar during your pregnancy, it’s important to know who you’ll see instead and what the practice’s plans are for coverage.

Who will deliver my baby if you are not on call?

So much of having a good birth experience is feeling comfortable with your team. For that reason, it can be nice to get to know the other doctors in the practice who could potentially deliver your baby or at least familiarize yourself with who it could be.

How much past 40 weeks will you allow me to go?

Doctors have many different stances on how long past 40 weeks they’ll allow patients to go, so this question is important to ask. Some research shows3  that inducing after 41 weeks lowers the risk of stillbirth and other complications, like meconium aspiration (when babies breathe in their waste). Some will insist on inducing earlier than 41 weeks, and some may let you go up to 42 weeks. It’s good to know their policy regardless, but if you have a specific preference, you will want to make sure your doctor’s policies are in alignment.

What is your policy on _______?

Pick and choose the questions on policies that are meaningful for you here. Some doctors, for example, are not trained on instrument-assisted deliveries, so in the event that you would need one (if you fatigue from pushing or the baby is in distress), you’d instead have an emergency C-section. (I did not think to ask this question myself, but I will if I have future pregnancies, as my son was born assisted by vacuum when his heart rate began to drop). Some situations to consider asking about: 

  • Inductions

  • Scheduled c-sections

  • Epidurals

  • Pain management

  • Episiotomies

  • Intermittent vs continuous monitoring

  • Instrument-assisted deliveries (forceps or vacuum)

  • VBACs (This will only be relevant to you if you’ve previously had one or more caesareans and are hoping for a vaginal delivery)

What is the cadence of my appointments?

Your ob-gyn practice may set up all your appointments, or at least all of them through 20 weeks, at that very first prenatal appointment. Generally, you’ll go monthly up until about 28 weeks, then every other week until 36 weeks when you begin weekly appointments. But this is a good time to let the office know if a certain day or time doesn’t work for you and how they handle scheduling. 

Pregnant woman holding her stomach on a bed with a plant in the background

Want evidence-based health & wellness advice for fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum delivered to your inbox?

Your privacy is important to us. By subscribing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.

Expectful uses only high-quality sources, including academic research institutions, medical associations, and subject matter experts.

  1. National Institutes of Health"Who is at risk of preeclampsia?"https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/preeclampsia/conditioninfo/risk#:~:text=Preeclampsia%20is%20also%20more%20common,diabetes%2C%20and%20sickle%20cell%20disease..

  2. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists"Alcohol and Pregnancy"https://www.acog.org/womens-health/infographics/alcohol-and-pregnancy.

  3. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care"Pregnancy and birth: When does labor need to be induced?"Sep 24, 2008https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279570/#:~:text=In%20other%20words%3A%20The%20research,aspiration%20(breathing%20in%20meconium)..


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